We are coming to the end of my history of science fiction. We have discovered that science fiction often plays on people’s fears, particularly of technology and the future. Modern science fiction films continue to address serious questions, as it has always done. This week we take a second look at the serious questions.
Time travel stories used to be about what the person did when they got there. But what about the physical and emotional toll on the time traveller? The Time Travellers Wife (2003), the début novel by Audrey Niffenegger, looked at the strain on both the time traveller and his wife. It was made into a film in 2009.
When Dr Who was revived in 2005 the scripts show the Doctor and his friends grappling with relationships, not just aliens etc. The tragedy is, he will always outlive his companions. Christopher Nolan's film Interstellar (2014) continues pushing boundaries: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival.
James Cameron's Avatar (2009) was another film that broke new ground. Cameron went to great lengths to study unspoiled forests and the creatures from the deep oceans. He named all the plants, and all the species of creatures, to create an intricately detailed ecosystem. Filmed in 3D, the effect was stunning. But it also addressed serious questions. Like Dune, it was about a bitter battle for power and resources, and us taking advantage of a society we look upon as primitive. A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.
At the heart of these films are two very important questions: What does it mean to be human? How do we treat those we judge to be less than human? This comes right back to War of the Worlds, where the narrator asks us to think how man has treated animals and inferior races, so we shouldn't be surprised if the Martians treat us the same.
[adapted from IMDB]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz